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The story behind the man in the rocking chair

MOORE, Okla. – It was one of the more poignant images of the May 20 tornado.

The photo was of a man, sitting in his rocking chair; a serene moment, surrounded by devastation.

While the picture has been seen around the world, the man, Gene Tripp, said he’s not famous, he’s just another Oklahoman dealing with this disaster.

Tripp said, “I seen all the debris flying and I thought maybe it will go north. It didn’t.”

Gene Tripp’s home took a direct hit when the May 20 tornado swept through the area just south of S.W. 149th St. and May Ave.

Tripp said, “I come out kind of in shock.”

His neighbor started going through the debris and came across the rocking chair that has made Tripp a picture of the May 20 storm.

“The only thing he found salvageable was this rocking chair, solid oak,” Tripp said. “He brought it and sat it in the drive way and I sat there.”

Along came a photographer, snapping the photo that has now been seen around the world.

For Mr. Tripp, that is just part of the story.

His wife of 56 years died at the end of April.

He said he had just started to grasp that reality when this storm hit.

Mr. Tripp said, “There was a few mementos but not many were there.”

The property had been their home for 36 years.

This is the third time it’s been hit; the first was May 3, 1999.

He said, “We had 78 trees lost that time.”

His home withstood May 3, hail hit it hard in 2003 and this time the damage is beyond repair.

Many of his neighbors are now moving but Mr. Tripp is undecided.

For now he’s just taking it all in stride, one day at a time.

Mr. Tripp said, “I just come out here and walk around and look.”

For a while his wife’s wedding ring and one of her other rings were missing.

A volunteer, who was taking a little break, swept their foot across some mud and just happened to find both rings.

Mr. Tripp does have insurance.

Right now he is staying with family.

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